Review | Six Degrees of Freedom, Nicolas Dickner

33245472Six Degrees of Freedom is about three characters: Lisa, a young woman who wants to be rich; Eric, her best friend who is agoraphobic, a tech genius, and determined to be a millionaire by 18; and Jay, a woman in her 30s who is serving out a sentence for identity fraud by working for the RCMP tech department. The story begins with Lisa and Eric building a hot air balloon that will take a digital camera up almost into space, and take pictures of its journey.

Fast forward several years into the future. Eric is now a young shipping magnate millionaire, Lisa has a job she doesn’t enjoy, and Jay is on the RCMP team investigating a mysterious shipping container with a potential link to terrorism. The camera Lisa and Eric sent in a hot air balloon as children will play a significant part in how their stories intersect, and it’s pretty cool to see how an act of such childlike enthusiasm could have such far-reaching effects.

There are things I enjoyed about this book. I loved the beginning, with Lisa and Eric’s tinkering, and the way the camera was traced back to them years later. I also liked the character of Jay, and her detective work around the shipping container.

But the pacing was slow and I found my attention lagging at times. There were also times when I wasn’t quite sure where the story was heading or what the point of the characters actions was. The language was also cumbersome at times, although I don’t know if that’s because of Dickner or his translator Lazer Lederhendler. For example, one character is described as spending a flight “in the depths of a bituminous slumber” (page 17), which according to Google, refers to a type of coal or asphalt, and doesn’t help make the description any clearer.

I also didn’t quite understand the point of Lisa’s scheme with Eric’s invention. He builds an intelligent, responsive technology that can deliver consumer goods more efficiently, and Lisa tells him that’s a waste of its potential, so they should instead use his invention for a brilliant idea she had. I understand what she did with the invention and I can see how what she did links thematically to Jay’s story with Jay having “a problem with geography,” but I don’t quite understand Lisa’s larger vision. I can see how it’s beneficial for both of them on a personal level, but in the grander scheme of things, I don’t quite get the wow factor. Likely as a result of this, the ending fell flat for me. There was a flurry of activity towards the end, but I didn’t quite understand what the point was.

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Thank you to Penguin Random House Canada for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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